Friday, December 17, 2010

3 More Months Have Passed and So Has Someone Very Special

It's been over three months since my last post and I'm afraid the news we received a few days ago is not at all what we had hoped. Again.

The 2nd DNA test run to determine whether this lady is Olivia's grandmother was halted because apparently someone decided that a proper result could not come from the samples taken of just the "grandparent" and child, that an intermediate generation has to be tested as well to determine kinship. This does not come as a surprise to me, because I had done a little research on DNA testing myself, back after the results of the first test came back. With a few simple emails to a U.S. genetics lab, I found out quite easily that the kind of test the lab in Spain was running, with just the two samples, would more than likely come back inconclusive. I was told that for the most accurate results, a family member from the generation between the two would be needed. Ideally the suspected birth mother, but as you know, she has washed her hands of this whole situation and can't be found. Before the second test was done in September, I emailed my findings to our attorney, hoping she or someone would mention it to the "powers-that-be" to insure this latest test would be done properly this time. Apparently, no one got the memo.

So now, after waiting 3 more months for a result and not getting one, the judge has ordered yet another test and for new samples to be taken sometime in January from Olivia, the "grandmother" and an alleged uncle. Add 3 months to that, we're looking at March or April to get an answer. The hardest part is that we have no voice, no recourse, no input. There is little to nothing we can do to aid or alter the situation. It's a difficult thing to feel helpless, especially when it comes to your child.

One month ago today, Bryan's dad went home to Heaven. For those of you who don't know, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on Oct. 1st and passed on Nov. 17th. We are so thankful and so blessed that we know beyond any shadow of a doubt, that he is with Jesus this very minute and that we will indeed see him again one day. However, it saddens us to know that he will never meet his youngest granddaughter Olivia, this side of Heaven. She would have loved her Poppy. We just keep reminding ourselves that God's plan and timing are perfect.

So it's the week before Christmas. The Christmas we had so hoped would be Olivia's first one home with us. The first Christmas without Poppy. It doesn't sound like we have much to celebrate this year, does it? We still do. We'll celebrate the fact that Poppy is 100% healed and spending Christmas with his Savior. We'll celebrate that Olivia is in a wonderful, loving place and will share the joys of Christmas this year with all her new friends. We'll celebrate our family and just how precious each and every one of them is. And we'll celebrate the hope and the true meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas, Olivia.

Merry Christmas, Poppy.

Merry Christmas everyone. We pray that 2011 brings good news, we'll keep ya posted.

God bless.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Today's Hearing.....

. . . . . was suspended. Yup, because the lab in Spain made the mistake on the DNA test submitted in June, the judge called for new samples and a new hearing date. We don't as yet have any idea when they plan to take the samples or if it will take another 3 months to process. We also still don't know if our attorney will get permission for anyone to visit Olivia. A lot more uncertainty.

So we continue to wait.

Thank you for all your prayers, please keep 'em comin'.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

DNA Results Are In........However............

After 3 months of waiting for the results of the DNA taken between Olivia and the woman claiming to possibly be her biological grandmother, we learned last night that our attorney had just received word from the Court clerk, (a week and a day before the hearing), that the results were in. The test came back negative, which is great, however, apparently the folks at the lab in Spain that were doing the testing, ran the test as though they were testing for a mother/child relation and not for grandmother/grandchild! Unbelievable. Apparently the test is conducted differently for different relations.

As you might imagine, we are in utter disbelief that a mistake like this could have been made, especially at this pivotal point in our case. All throughout this process, when there is a foot to be gained by the next progressive step, we gain only an inch at the most. "Frustration" cannot accurately describe how we feel.

So our supposed "final" hearing is next Thursday, one week from today. With what we know now, the judge will more than likely assign yet again, a new "final" hearing date. We've been told that 'the understanding is' that they probably won't have to run a new DNA and that they will try to determine if the results can be analyzed to look for markers that would rule out this "grandmother" lady. If not, and they have to do a whole new test, you guessed it, more months of waiting for results. We've been told that a new hearing date would most likely be dependent on the Court calendar and that can vary quite a bit.

Meanwhile, our little girl has been away from everything and everyone she knows and loves for 3 months without any contact or explanation. Our attorney was trying to get permission for her foster family to visit, but apparently that hasn't happened and we're not clear on why. The only glimmer of hope we've had in all this time is a photograph posted by the orphanage on their Facebook page, showing Olivia during an outing to Pizza Hut with the other children a few weeks back. She's playing and is smiling. I won't post the picture because I don't want in any way to jeopardize the "no contact" rule.

There has been some buzz recently among other adoptive families still waiting to bring their children home, that the remaining 300-400 cases might be completed by the PGN, (the original processing agency in Guatemala before the government shut down adoptions at the end of 2007). That would actually be good, considering the new process, the CNA doesn't really have a concrete process in place. However (again), we've been told that our case, should we be allowed to proceed, would fall into the abandonment category, therefore we would definitely have to complete it through the CNA. More hoops to jump through. Our attorney, Beyla is trying to get a jump-start on the necessary next step in that process, so at the next hearing, we'll be ahead of the game.....a little bit.....maybe.

So that's where we stand at the moment. Hopefully there will be something more to report after the hearing on the 9th.

Please continue to join us in prayer for a quick solution to this mess and for our sanity and patience, (the latter two have really been under fire of late). Please pray that God would touch and soften the heart of this judge and that he might have mercy on this situation. And please pray for Olivia, that she would be at peace and that God would protect her heart and mind through all this and that someone would be able to visit her soon and explain to her that we're all still here and love her very much and are trying very hard to get her home. Thank you.

I'll update again as soon as I hear something.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Update on Olivia

First of all, Bryan & I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and prayers for Olivia and our family. They have truly meant a lot. The past few days have been surreal as you might imagine.

We arrived home late Thursday night. Bryan and I both had a rough time as the plane left the ground in Guatemala. There are just so many unanswered questions and such a feeling of helplessness.

We were given the name and address of the orphanage on Wednesday and before we left Thursday, we searched online to see if we could find it. We did find a place by the same name, but it didn't seem to be in the right town where we were told it was. This place was run by an American Christian couple who have been taking in Guatemala's needy children, including special needs children since 1997. After reading their webpage, we so hoped that's where she was taken.

This morning, when I checked our emails, another adoptive mom, told me that she knew of this place and the people who run it. She said this was a very good place and that we could email them directly. So that's what I did! I emailed the lady and asked if Olivia had been brought there on Wednesday afternoon and if so, how was she? A few hours later, I got a response saying that indeed Olivia was there and that she was doing well. We were so relieved to know she is being well taken care of! We're still unbelievably upset that she was taken away from her loving foster family and what effects that will have on her, but at least we know she's in a safe and good place for now.

We're hoping we can communicate with her through the director. We asked her to tell Olivia that we love her very much and she agreed to let her know. We're just going to lay low for awhile until we find out how much contact we are allowed to have.

It's a little bit of comforting news in what has been a very upsetting last few days. A dear friend of mine told me about this song she had heard that spoke directly to her heart and thought it would minister to us as well. I listened, and it did.

This was the last picture taken of our family, just before we left for court on Wednesday.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hearing Results

Our hearts are very heavy tonight. We did not get the news we were praying for at our hearing today.

The lady who says she's Olivia's biological grandmother and her husband were there. I had made a photo album of our entire history with Olivia and Beyla, our attorney showed it to them before the hearing. They seemed quite moved when they saw all that we have done with her.

When it was time for the hearing, the grandmother as well as Olivia, Brenda, (her foster Mom) and the attorneys went in. Meanwhile, our translator, Mirna was talking to the grandfather who was in the waiting room with us. She advocated for us big time, and at one point he asked if he and his wife decided not to adopt, would they be able to keep in contact with Olivia through us and wanted to know where we lived and what it was like.

After about 40 minutes, we saw a man come in with a white lab coat carrying a small cooler. We were told that there was a possibility that the judge would order a DNA test of Olivia and the grandmother and that's what this man was there for. 10 to 15 minutes later, everyone emerged from the hearing room and we were ushered out into the street to talk.

Beyla told us that they were going to get DNA samples and upon the results of the test, the judge would either let the grandparents adopt her if it's positive, or if it's negative, declare her abandoned and we would still be in the picture. The results will take anywhere from 15 days to 3 months.

Now for the worst part. The judge ordered Olivia go directly to an orphanage and not be able to go back home with her foster family that she's lived with for past 2 1/2 years of her life.

We were able to have lunch with her and then just after 3:30, people from the orphanage came and pulled her out of her foster father's arms crying and reaching for him and put her into the back of a car and drove off. We were right there at the car and it was one of the most heart wrenching moments of our lives. She was so scared and confused. We're still numb. Please pray for her. She couldn't take any belongings and can't have any contact with anyone she knows. Absolutely inhumane.

Beyla made an appeal to the judge to allow her to go back with her foster family, but we don't know what he'll decide. It would be the absolute best thing right now.

The judge set the deciding hearing for Sept. 9th. We're not required to be there. Hopefully we'll get the DNA results before then. If the results come back negative, then we're back in the race. And even if they come back as a match, the grandparents may decide to relinquish their rights. Allowing us to move forward. The grandmother herself, told the judge that she didn't know for sure if she was the biological grandmother, so there are doubts even in her mind. We'll just have to keep waiting.

We know God has a plan and a reason for all of this. We can handle the waiting, we just pray for Olivia that God would comfort her and give her peace in the next 3 months.

There still is hope, but we are also realistic in that we may have seen her for the last time today.

We head for home in the morning with an enormous "?" and a profound sadness for our little girl.

Our other little girl has had a very, very bad 10th birthday today. She misses her sister.

We welcome each and every prayer.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Our Court hearing is tomorrow morning. Our adoption could potentially end dead in it's tracks.

We need a miracle and we're asking to pray specifically for God to intervene and allow Olivia to come home to us.

We'll update when we can.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Monday, Monday!

Today was another slow-paced day here in lovely Guatemala City. The weather was beautiful and very warm. We did more walking and shopping and eating and game-playing and ride-riding. The girls are getting along SO well!

Tomorrow is our appointment with the Consul General at the U.S. Embassy. Not sure what we can expect from her, but at least she'll meet us, hear our story and hopefully remember us when the time comes for our case to come before her.

Later in the afternoon, we have a pre-hearing meeting with our attorney. Hopefully we'll feel a little more prepared after we talk with her.

This is what we've woken up to the past two mornings. What is it with kids and forts?!

This is a roller coaster they just built in one of the malls.

Isn't the ponytail in the wrong place?

Everybody loves a Frosty!

Pacaya today......a little steamy.

A pile of volcanic sand and lots more already bagged.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Some Pictures From Our Trip So Far

Today, we slept in, lazed around, had a nice lunch, shopped some, got stuck in the mall during a heavy rain shower, and just had a very low-key day. Here are some pictures from yesterday and today.

Pacaya, behaving herself.

Volcanic sand on the window sill.

Enjoying some breakfast.

Sun setting on Guatemala for today.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

We've Arrived!

We touched down in Guatemala about an hour after we were scheduled to due to some luggage delay in Atlanta and arrived at the hotel about 1:30. For some reason in Atlanta, we were bumped up to first class seats! So sitting on the runway for an extra hour, didn't really seem so bad! (The hot towels and fancy filet mignon lunch complete with dense chocolate cheesecake for dessert didn't hurt either!)

Flying over and into Guatemala, we tried to see what the volcano/storm damage was. Of what we could see out the window, the rivers were muddy and there were areas on some of the mountainsides where the ground washed away, but we couldn't really see any extensive damage where we were looking. Pacaya (the offending volcano) seen from the hotel today, is quiet.

The clean-up effort in the city is still going on, but I must say, they've done a wonderful job. There are piles of black volcanic sand (not ash) on the sides of the streets that they're putting into bags and hauling off. And we've been told that that big sinkhole that we've all seen pictures of? Is small compared to the one they had last year in the same area! Really??!!

Olivia's foster family brought her to us shortly after 5:00 and said that the trip in from their home which normally takes about 45 minutes, took them 2 hours due to washed out bridges and bad road conditions.

Olivia is awesome! She charged towards me full speed when they entered the hotel lobby. We were talking to Mirna and all of a sudden there she was. I'll tell ya, that does a mommy's heart good!

We don't have anything scheduled for tomorrow, so we'll just take it easy. We have an appointment at the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday morning and of course Wednesday morning is our much anticipated hearing.

So stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

An Angry Volcano + a Tropical Storm + a Surreal Sinkhole = ... a Date with the Judge!

This past week has been a stressful one to say the least.

As time has been growing closer to June 9th, our Court date, the realities of what may or may not be decided by the judge that day have been weighing on my mind. Couple that with the last minute projects I've created for myself that
must be done before we leave. (I've always worked best under a modest amount of pressure........)

Last Wednesday, 10 days before our departure, I find out that my dear brother is in the hospital ICU in very serious condition. Now all my focus is on him and praying for his recovery.

Two days later on Friday, I'm watching the morning news and see that our "favorite" Guatemalan volcano, Pacaya, the one that we see from our hotel, has erupted. What?!! People have been evacuated, the airport is shut down and there's 2 inches of ash everywhere. Knowing that Olivia lives relatively close to Pacaya, I immediately emailed her foster family to make sure they were all safe.

Then Saturday the first tropical storm of the season pounds Guatemala with as much rain in several hours as they would normally get in a year. Oh my word!
How is my child?!
Where is my child?!
What's going on???!

After spending the weekend visiting my brother and seeing that he is much better and on the mend, we return home Sunday night to find an email from Olivia's foster family, saying that they are all okay and safe. Praise the Lord on both counts!

Monday, we see pictures of the sinkhole in Guatemala City. Have you
seen the sinkhole? Absolutely surreal.

Now we're thinking...... with all this turmoil all at once in this small Central American country, are we still going to be able to go as scheduled? Should we go? Will our hearing be postponed? If so, for how long this time? Will this set our case back even more?

We've been trying to get answers to all these questions for days now and thanks to our wonderful friend and translator, Mirna, we now know that our hearing is indeed still on for Wednesday! With 2 1/2 days to spare before we leave!

We'll be off bright and early Saturday morning and will send updates as often as we can. Please pray for safe travels, safety while we're there, that the judge allows us to finally go ahead with Olivia's adoption and for all the people of Guatemala who are struggling right now. Thanks!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Face of My Child.

Three years ago today, I received a phone call from our adoption agency director, Lymaris. We had begun this process 2 months (to the day) before, and had another month before all our paperwork would be complete.

She told me that they had just received a little 17 month-old girl who was malnourished, but seemed otherwise healthy. She knew that we had "requested" a girl between the ages of 12 and 24 months on our application and thought we might be interested in her.

Well, needless to say, I was excited! My heart was pounding and my mind was racing. We hadn't expected to get a child referral until after all our paperwork was completed. This phone call caught me off guard for sure!

Lymaris went on to tell me that she had photos of this child and would be happy to email them to me right away. I of course, told her to go right ahead! She asked me to take a look and contact her later to let her know what we think.

After I hung up the phone, heart still pounding and mind still racing, I called Bryan at work and told him of the very interesting call I'd just had. I told him that I would be receiving photos via email at any second and asked him if I should wait to look at them until he got home..... several hours from then, or would he mind if I looked without him. He said to go ahead, but that he didn't want me to forward them to him at work, he wanted to see them at home.

So now, alone in front of my computer, (Emily was off playing), I click to receive any new emails. There. It. Is. The subject line read, "fotos de nena nueva", (new baby photos). I hesitated to click to open the email. I knew that the moment I opened it and saw the pictures, I would be looking at the face of my child. This wasn't going to be me browsing through photos of some little girl in Guatemala, shopping for a daughter, no. I knew THIS little girl was going to be OUR daughter. Pretty big stuff.

Well, after a few minutes, I took a deep breath and clicked. There were 7 attached photos. This is the first image I saw of my little girl.

So tiny, so sad. Those red shoes. I opened the rest of the pictures, and yes, there were tears! Tears of happiness to see her face, but also tears of sadness to see her face. I didn't know her story, but I could see, by looking at that precious face, she had been through so much already in her young life.

The photos were date stamped. They had been taken just the evening before.

When Bryan got home that night, he sat in front of the computer, clicked open the email and saw our daughter for the first time. More tears, but more importantly, an immediate mutual knowledge that yes, she was meant to be ours. There was no hesitation what-so-ever. Whatever we needed to do to bring her home, that's what we'd do.

Fast forward 3 years and 3 years worth of "Whatever we need to do to bring her home". We remain fully committed to this child. Our child. She is SO worth it.

Just look at that face.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

New Pictures of Our Gal!

Just before Olivia left with her foster family during our last trip, we gave them a camera to take pictures of Olivia for us. We just got these emailed to us. Her personality certainly shines through! 8 1/2 weeks till we see her gain!

Olivia and her foster brother, Aland.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

We're Home Again

We arrived home late Monday night, but we said "bye-bye" to Olivia Sunday evening. Her foster parents came to pick her up about 6:00 and as it turns out their first grandchild was being born when they were with us! Their oldest son and his wife had a baby boy, they were so excited! We felt bad because they were with us instead of being there for the birth.

So Sunday we ventured out to an area of the city we hadn't gone before. We were told of a place only 2 blocks away that we were eager to visit. Yes, we walked to Hiper Paiz, the Central American Walmart! I had heard of the stores before, but had no idea there was one was so close to our hotel! Those of you who know us, know that Walmart is a Charles family staple, we generally try to visit one where ever we go. So this was a treat!

After that the girls spied the big Burger King across the street with the equally big playplace..... so that's where we had lunch.

We then headed back to the hotel and upon entering the mall under the hotel, we noticed a crowd watching this guy dressed up like a silver cowboy. He'd stand motionless like a statue then would interact with the crowd. The girls thought he was really neat. He called them up to shake hands and then posed for a picture with them, they were tickled!

When we got back to the room, I told Olivia that Mama Brenda would be coming later that afternoon and she seemed okay with that. We gave her some Easter candy and a really big stuffed lamb.

We were sad to see her go, but it'll only be 11 weeks until we're back there again. We didn't talk to our attorney at all this time, but Mirna reiterated what they had both told us back in Nov. that the judge will most likely rule in our favor at the hearing in June and things should move relatively "quickly" from then.

Here are the pictures taken on Sunday.

Olivia wearing her school jacket